Worker Pays High Price for Lack of Legal Representation

In a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to go before a court or tribunal without legal assistance, a worker whose wife hastily withdrew his unfair dismissal claim in the heat of the moment has been told that he will have to live with the consequences (Drysdale v The Department of Transport).

In the midst of a bitterly fought Employment Tribunal (ET) hearing, the man's wife had announced that he wished to withdraw his claim. The ET swiftly went on to dismiss his case and he was ordered to pay substantial legal costs bills. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) subsequently upheld that decision.

In seeking to restore his compensation hopes, the man argued before the Court of Appeal that his wife, who had represented him, was under extreme pressure at the time. She suffered from diabetes and had been on her feet for six hours during the ill-tempered hearing. She lacked any legal training and had withdrawn his case in a fit of frustration and anger brought on by tiredness and her medical condition.

However, in dismissing his challenge, the Court refused to accept that the ET should have adjourned the case. There was evidence that his highly intelligent wife had been 'perfectly composed, in control and articulate' during the hearing. The ET was well aware that she lacked legal expertise and there had been nothing to indicate that her withdrawal of her husband's case was anything other than considered and voluntary. The ET had also concluded on reasonable grounds that the man had understood and assented to what his wife had done on his behalf.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.